Curiosity Fuels Solutions to Economic Growth in First Alltech Innovation Competition

Written by: Elizabeth Adams

Jan 21

As with any meeting of in-state universities, the competitors in the first Alltech Innovation Competition relied on training, strategy and teamwork. But instead of jerseys, these rival teams wore business suits.

Students from the University of Kentucky, the University of Pikeville and the University of Louisville engaged in a friendly battle of entrepreneurial inventiveness Jan. 19 during the Alltech Innovation Competition. The three universities proposed business plans to spur economic growth and create jobs in Eastern Kentucky where the unemployment rate hovers above the national average at 8.1 percent.  

A panel of judges comprised of independent entrepreneurs and investors crowned four University of Kentucky MBA candidates – Lee Gage Goatley, Jarrod Willis, Jordan Denny and Jordan Laycock – recipients of the $10,000 first prize. Dr. Pearse Lyons, who challenged the universities to compete in spring 2012, praised all three teams for demonstrating the curiosity of entrepreneurship.

Alltech Innovation Competition Highlights

The Alltech Innovation Competition pitted together students from the University of Pikeville, the University of Kentucky, and the University of Louisville in a contest to present business ideas for creating jobs in 9 counties of Eastern Kentucky.

“Entrepreneurs live in a world of curiosity,” said Dr. Lyons, president and founder of Alltech. “Curiosity is what leads to jobs. Our challenge is to say, what can we do?”

The winning University of Kentucky team tackled the economic challenge with a business plan to produce butanol, an alternative to the widely used biofuel ethanol, on Appalachian mountaintops. Their company, Terracast Technologies, would reclaim more than 100,000 acres of mountainside land to grow switchgrass, a durable, sustainable and organic crop that produces butanol through a fermentation process with white rot fungi. The plan complemented Kentucky’s 20 percent biofuel initiative and the federal renewable energy fuel standard to reach 36 billion gallons by 2022.

Receiving a second-place award of $6,000, the University of Louisville team pitched a plan to repurpose tradesmen formerly employed in the local houseboat industry for its EcoVision Development project. UofL developed a construction plan for multi-family housing costing less than $100,000 per home and maintaining energy costs of $1 a day. The third-place University of Pikeville team, claiming a prize of $4,000, introduced the concept of Appalachian Artisan Foods, an initiative designed to increase locally produced food in Eastern Kentucky. The team created a model of a sustainable aquaponic farm, which would cultivate fish, vegetables and ginseng. A natural resource in the region, ginseng could be sold internationally for as much as $1,500 per pound.

Dr. Lyons founded Alltech, a top-10 global animal nutrition company, in 1980 with $10,000 and a strong sense of curiosity. Today, the company headquartered in Kentucky has grown to $1 billion, with more than 3,000 employees and 128 offices around the globe.

“Did the Innovation Competition live up to our expectations? Absolutely not,” said Dr. Lyons. “It dramatically exceeded our expectations, and I firmly believe this is only the beginning of something very special in our state.”

For more information on Alltech educational initiatives, visit

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